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When you’re in a budget hole, stop digging. 

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton should think about that age-old rule of state governance. Then he should call back and cut down on his $1 billion bonding proposal — an action that would amount to his tossing up his shovel, climbing out of the crater and resolving to focus on filling rather than deepening Minnesota’s budget hole.

Dayton’s bonding bill would pay for some fine projects. But Minnesota just can’t afford most of those projects right now. 

If the state were flush with cash or even facing a stable and balanced budget outlook, that would be one thing. But it’s not. Instead it faces a $6.2 billion deficit, as every Minnesotan knows.

So, now is not the time to be borrowing a billion more dollars. Now is the time to be negotiating budget fixes to the near-exclusion of everything else. 

As Republican lawmakers pointed out, bonding money is not a gift card. It comes from taxpayers, not the Tooth Fairy.

For Dayton, that should be that. Unfortunately, this basic lesson seems lost on the governor, who talks with real excitement about the potential the construction projects have to create jobs.

whether taxpayers both want and can afford it.

There is one key exception that every household and business also would agree to: emergencies. In Minnesota’s case, flood control projects qualify, so those components of the governor’s bonding bill should be retained. 

Importantly, even Republican lawmakers who strongly oppose Dayton’s billion-dollar bonding bill accept the need for flood mitigation spending.